How Children Are Rewarded Can Shape Behaviors


Parents often choose to reward children for good behavior using food or gifts. Studies are finding that using these options to reward children can cause children to associate material possessions with success or to seek comfort from fatty and unhealthy foods. Punishing children by taking away possessions or denying dessert can work to reinforce these ideas.

Extrinsic Rewards

Studies have shown that using extrinsic rewards to influence good behaviors tends to backfire. Instead of motivating children to keep their room clean or act politely for the sake of what these behaviors accomplish, children tend to look at the reward as a motivator. This means that children are less likely to behave in the same way when the reward is not present. These behaviors can carry on into adulthood, resulting in adults that are more materialistic and are unlikely to perform good deeds that are not immediately rewarded.

Better Rewards for Shaping Views

When external rewards are used to motivate children towards behaving a certain way, children are less likely to understand why the action is being performed. When parents shower children with compliments and praise, they can at least see how their behavior makes someone else happy. When possible, it is best to reward children in ways that directly relate to the behaviors. When children help to clean the house, for example, parents may take them to the park or play with them for an hour to show how they have helped to free up their time for more fun activities. Showing responsibility may be rewarded with greater responsibility and independence, as well.

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